FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Buckwheat Flower Season in Ha Giang?

Question: Hi, I’m planning to visit Ha Giang in April. Can I see Buckwheat Flower Season in this month?

Answer: Buckwheat Flower or Tam Giac Mach in Vietnamese is a special flower growing in northern mountainous provinces of Vietnam. It is noted that this flower doesn’t grow naturally, it is planted by farmers, therefore, the time of buckwheat season really depends on these farmers.

Normally, buckwheat flowers are in blossom in October & November in Ha Giang Province and in March & April in Bac Giang Province. Hence, if you want to see buckwheat flower season, you should visit Bac Giang Province in April, instead of Ha Giang as your planning. In addition to admiring the beauty of buckwheat flowers, you should try wine and cake made from them, it is very special.

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Where can I find places with free wifi in Vietnam?

Believe it or not, it is a lot easier to find a free wireless network hotspots in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City than major cities in North America. In Vietnam, visitors can get free access to the Internet at some places:

1. Coffee shops:

Free Wi-fi is available at most coffee shops in Hanoi, Danang, Hoi An and  Ho Chi Minh City. A coffee shop is a great place when you are waiting for someone and need to access the Internet in the mean time. Or it can be a place for a short appointment with your clients as well. All you need to pay is your drink which varies from $1 to $2.5. If the Wi-fi is secured by passwords, don’t hesitate to ask the staff for it. They are willing to give you without any surcharge. Some suggestions: Trung Nguyen Coffee Shop, Highlands Coffee Shop, Gloria Jeans, Angel in U.S.

2. Fast food franchises:

At fast food franchises in Hanoi Ho Chi Minh City, customers can both have meals and finish their work on the Internet. KFC, Lotteria, Jolibee, Pizza Hut are four major franchises in Vietnam. 

3. Hotels and office buildings:

Some free wi-fi hotspots can also be found inside and outside hotels and office buildings. Check with your hotel receptionist and see if they have complimentary internet service. In case of office buildings, unlike coffee shops, these free wi-fi hot spots don’t offer a comfortable seat in an air-conditioned room with a tasty drink. Therefore, it might not be your choice at noon when the sun is shining too brightly or it is raining.

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What does Vietnam mean?

Vietnam should be correctly written as Viet Nam. Viet is the name of the people, which covers the 54 different ethnic groups in the country. Nam means South. Viet Nam means the Viet people living in the South.

To many people, Vietnam is not an unfamiliar name as it had been on the international press and media for such a long time. But what have been left in their minds are just images of war in a secluded corner of Southeast Asia, nothing more. So hardly does anyone know the meaning of the name and the long established history of that remote country.

The name Vietnam came about when Emperor Gia Long desired to rename the country Nam Viet which was the combination of names of regions in Vietnam, including An Nam and Viet Thuong, and later change to Vietnam as seen today. There are many other assumptions about the meaning of the name and the most rational explanation is that the name is the fine combination of both geographical and ethnical factors.

In brief, Vietnam means the Viets of the South according to the second explanation or is synonymous with the reunification of different regions in Vietnam in accordance with the first explanation.

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What is Vietnam currency and what is the exchange rate with dollars?

Vietnam's sole currency is Vietnam Dong - VND, which comes in notes and coins though the latter is barely seen today. Vietnam Dong notes come in denominations of: 

VND 500; 1,000; 2,000;

VND 5,000; 10;000; 20,000;

VND 50,000; 100,000; 200,000; 500,000

At present the exchange rate is about VND 21,000 for 1 USD.

US dollars can also be used for your purchase while you are in larger cities' tourist areas but try to avoid doing so. Since late 2011, Vietnamese government has banned all price listing in dollars. Adding to that, Vietnamese sellers will charge you unfavourable rate if you pay in dollars.

Vietnamese currency is not common beyond Vietnam and Asia, so your banks will not have them in stocks if you are in North America or Europe. You can always get some as you land at one of the Vietnam's airport.

• History of Vietnam Dong

Vietnamese bank notes images

Online currency converter

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Is Halong Bay Cruise suitable for old people?

Question: Hi, I and my wife would like to take a cruise in Halong Bay. We are wondering whether Halong Bay cruise is suitable for us - both are in our late 60’s? We wouldn’t be interested in activities like kayaking, climbing, or snorkeling.

Answer: A typical program of a Halong Bay cruise consists of many activities: energizing activities like climbing, kayaking, snorkeling; sightseeing tours to well-known attractions such as Surprising Cave, Floating Fishing Village, Pearl Farm; on-board activities like cooking demonstration, spa.... This means you have many options to enjoy Halong Bay cruise at leisure. If you don’t like kayaking, swimming or something else, you can sit on the boat, sip a cup of delicious cocktails, take a massage, or enjoy beautiful vistas of the Bay yourself .

However, please kindly be reminded that you should make clear with the cruise’s company or agent to ensure that they let you stay on board because some cruises off load you to other activities so that they can return to the pier to pick up new passengers.

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Where should I go to when I feel sick?

Vietnam has public, semi-public and private medical care facility. However, most of the quality ones concentrate in major cities such as Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Public hospitals are large but often heavily cramped with patients and the staffs do not speak English well. You can visit other healthcare services as listed in our city pages, many of which have foreign doctors. Normally you do not have to book an appointment in advance unless otherwise noted.

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I am planning to go to Hanoi in December, can you please let me know whether the weather will be ok for sightseeing and walking outside at that time? I am from Washington D.C.

Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam. December is in the winter in Hanoi. Therefore, it is cold but is still ok for travellers, especially those from temperate zone like you will not have a difficult time at all. The temperature is about 16 Celcius degree on average, with light rain and windy weather. You can go out for sightseeing comfortably, but make sure that you bring some warm clothes because Vietnam does not have central heating system like North America so it might be colder than it sounds.

Many Hanoians talk about having ice-cream and walking around the tree-lined Hoan Kiem Lake as a leisure activity during the winter days. Winter food in Vietnam is not about apple cider and fresh-from-the-oven brownies, but there are sure things to enjoy: sweet potatoes grilled on charcoal or toasted corn on the cob; chicken skewer and a hot bowl of pho will definitely give your stomach a satisfying feeling like you never feel before. 

Enjoy Hanoi!

Suggested Readings:
Hanoi Travel Guide
Hanoi weather in December

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I and my wife intend to visit Hanoi in this summer, and we are wondering something about money. Which currency should we carry? Where to exchange?

Normally you can bring any currency that you want to Vietnam, as long as you exchange that money into Vietnam Dong but USD is the most widely accepted one. You can also use USD or Euro to make payment in Vietnam, especially in hotel, restaurants or some shops in the tourists areas. 

To exchange you currency into Vietnam Dong, there are many ways for you to choose. The first way is to do it right at the airport when you land. You can also exchange currency in any bank in Hanoi, but ANZ bank or HSBC branch are recommended  as they are international banks with better customer service.

You should never exchange currency with the street vendors as their money might be not guaranteed in quality. About international credit card, you can use it in Vietnam to make payment, but there is only limited place, mostly big supermarkets, restaurants, hotel or malls accept this kind of payment. Therefore, prepare enough cash on your purse is more suitable in Hanoi than carry an credit card.

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What is Vietnam weather like in February?

Question: What is Vietnam weather like in February?

Answer: The weather in the North Vietnam in February is opposite to the Southern part of the country. In the northern cities/towns such as Hanoi, Halong, Sapa, the weather becomes colder, meanwhile, the southern parts like Saigon or Vung Tau receive sunshine and warm. For more information about Vietnam weather in February and what to expect if you travel Vietnam in this month, please visit http://www.vietnamonline.com/weather/february.html

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How to get a Vietnam visa from Singapore?

If you are a citizen of a Southeast Asian or Nordic countries, Japan, South Korea, you do not need a visa to enter Vietnam for tourism purpose. If your nationality is different from what was mentioned above, you can obtain your visa from the embassy or opt for visa on arrival.

The second option takes only a maximum of 2 days but it applies to air travel only.  

For the former option, the Vietnam embassy address in Singapore is:  

10 Leedon Park St., SINGAPORE 267887
Tel: (65) 6462 5936/ 6462 5938
Fax: (65) 6468 9863
Email: vnemb@singnet.com.sg

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Should I really need to carry a mosquito net when travelling Vietnam?

Question: Should I really need to carry a mosquito net when travelling Vietnam? 

Answer: That depends. You may need one if your trip includes homestay; holiday camp in forest or jungles; or a visit to mountainous areas. On the other hand, if you only travel to big cities and stay in hotels which are equipped with modern amenities such as fans and air-condition, it may be not necessary.

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